How Working with Teenage Cancer Patients Inspired my YA Fantasy Novel, a guest post by Katie Keridan
Prior to becoming a full-time author, I worked in the medical field as a pediatric neuropsychologist, providing psychological support and cognitive testing to children and young adults with cancer. I specialized in working with teens diagnosed with brain tumors, a population many of my fellow practitioners shunned, partly due to the perceived “difficulty” of working with teens, but also because of an abysmally high death rate among these patients.
While incredible strides have been made in treating brain tumors over the past few decades, for many of my patients, there was no cure, not after extensive surgery that left zig-zagging scars on their scalps, chemotherapy that made their hair fall out and their eyebrows disappear, or months of radiation that left them nauseous and exhausted.
The topic of death—not typically mentioned in casual conversations—became an everyday discussion for me. My patients knew they were going to die, and contrary to what many people expected, they wanted to talk about it. These conversations will stay with me forever, as it’s an incredibly intimate experience to talk with someone about what they think dying will be like, as well as what they think will happen after they take their last breath.
My patients alternated between being anxious and curious about the process of dying, speculating on whether or not it would hurt and wondering what, if anything, they would be aware of when the time came. They cried and screamed and threw things across their hospital rooms, lamenting about missing prom, never getting their driver’s license, never falling in love, never getting to go to college, and never having the chance to travel the world.
But more than anything, they expressed concern over those they were leaving behind. They feared their parents would never recover. They made siblings promise to look out for one another, to each other from bullies, and to keep specific family traditions going. They worried about the pets that would outlive them and wrote detailed instructions on the proper care of dogs, hamsters, and guinea pigs, to name a few beloved animals. In the face of their own mortality, they looked death in the eye and rather than flinching, they focused on the lives of those they loved.
Even when I knew it was coming, hearing the medical team admit they’d reached the limit of what science and technology could do for a patient infuriated me, and while I provided the best care I could, I constantly wished I could do more…and thus, the idea of a Recovrancer was born.
In Reign Returned, my main character, Kyra, learns she possesses a unique magical gift…she’s a Recovrancer, able to go into the realm of the dead and “recover” those who died before their time. There are rules about who she can and can’t save, but I loved knowing, at least in my own little fantasy world, that death wasn’t always final, and there was at least one way for people to come back, ensuring they had the opportunity to live the life that had been cut short. I look forward to the day when real life catches up to my writing.
Meet the author
Katie Keridan made her literary debut at ten years of age when she won a writing contest by crafting a tale about her favorite childhood hero, Hank the Cowdog. After that, Katie has continued to write, through college and graduate school and during her career as a pediatric neuropsychologist. But while Katie enjoyed being a doctor, scientific research didn’t bring her nearly as much joy as creating her own characters and worlds, so she slowly left the medical world behind to focus exclusively on writing. In 2018 she self-published a poetry book, Once Upon a Girl, and her work has been featured in Highlights Hello Magazine, The Blue Nib, Youth Imagination Magazine, Red Fez, The Red Penguin Review, Sand Canyon Review, and Every Day Fiction, to name a few. Her debut young adult fantasy novel, Reign Returned, will be published by SparkPress September 2022. She loves sharing her writing with others who feel different, misunderstood, or alone. Katie lives in Northern California with her husband and two very demanding cats.
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About Reign Returned: The Felserpent Chronicles
Kyra Valorian is the most gifted Astral healer the golden-blooded realm of Aeles has seen in ages. When tragedy strikes, Kyra discovers she possesses a life-changing gift: she’s a Recovrancer, able to enter the realm of the dead and recover those who’ve died before their time. Unfortunately, recovrancy is outlawed in her realm. Desperate for answers, Kyra will do anything to get them . . . even partner with a dangerous enemy.
Sebastian Sayre is the most sought-after Daeval assassin in all of Nocens. A silver-blooded Pyromancer, he wields fire and dreams of finding Rhannu, a legendary sword that makes its holder invincible. Since the sword was long ago stolen from Nocens and hidden where no Daeval can retrieve it, however, such a dream seems impossible . . . until he encounters the one Astral who might be both able and willing to help him.
As Kyra and Sebastian work together to uncover the secrets of their realms, they also uncover secrets within their own pasts—pasts that are far more intertwined than they ever imagined. Ultimately, in this tale of discovery, destiny, and a love strong enough to outlast time, remembering the past just may prove to be the only way to change the future.
Publication date: 09/13/2022
Age Range: 13 – 17 Years
Filed under: Guest Post
About Amanda MacGregor
Amanda MacGregor works in an elementary library, loves dogs, and can be found on Twitter @CiteSomething.
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